KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) _ Prospect Charlie Morton is set to throw
the first pitch of spring for the Atlanta Braves.
The 24-year-old right-hander will start Wednesday when the Braves
face the University of Georgia in the traditional spring opener
against college opposition.
Manager Bobby Cox normally uses this game to get a reading on
some of the Braves' top pitching prospects. Morton will be followed
to the mound by Zach Schreiber, Jorge Campillo and Francisley
Phil Stockman was originally scheduled to pitch as well, but
minor shoulder problems pushed back his spring debut.
Morton, a third-round pick in 2002, got off to a sluggish start
in the minors, going 1-7 in the Gulf Coast League in 2002. He
continued to struggle over the next four seasons, giving him little
hope of ever making it to the big leagues.
But something clicked at Double-A Mississippi last season, and
he was even more impressive in the Arizona Fall League. With Cox on
hand to check out the youngsters, the 6-foot-5, 218-pound Morton
went 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA.
The Grapefruit League officially gets started on Thursday, when
the Braves travel to Vero Beach to face the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Tim Hudson will start in that one, followed over the next four days
by Jair Jurrjens, Tom Glavine, Mike Hampton and Jo-Jo Reyes.
BOYER'S BACK: Blaine Boyer has changed numbers and grown a
goatee. Anything to shake things up.
Once one of the Braves' top prospects, the 26-year-old reliever
faces a make-or-break spring after injuries derailed his career.
He's out of minor league options, so he must make the team or face
the likelihood of going to another organization.
Boyer insists he feels even better than three years ago.
Back in 2005, the right-hander went 4-2 with a 3.11 ERA in 43
games out of the bullpen, making him one of Atlanta's most
effective middle relievers. But his shoulder began to hurt late in
the season, and he wasn't able to pitch in the playoffs.
Boyer had season-ending surgery the following season, then spent
'07 at Triple-A Richmond trying to regain the velocity he once had.
Finally, it seems to have returned -- and at the perfect time.
Hoping to help his chances, Boyer switched numbers _ going from
48 to 56 _ and he might change again if he makes the team. He also
grew some facial hair.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)